This ice climbing area is super convenient to access. Simply park and walk up the railroad tracks. It's that easy. This area has climbs for everyone from beginners, to the season steep ice guru, to everyone in between. So there's no real single rating to be given. Safety precautions: It's ice climbing; if you haven't figured out the safety end of it, don't bother going.
Time To Complete
The approach to the climbs is straightforward along the tracks. Once you reach them, find your climb and head uphill a short distance and saddle up there. The approach is about 15 to 25 minutes depending on how far you head down the tracks for each particular climb.
This is one of the best places to find a wide variety of ice climbing anywhere in New Hampshire. It does have some rock routes sprinkled throughout the various crags, but for the most part it's an ice climbing destination.
Crawford Notch has some of the best roadside ice climbing in the Northeast, and the crown jewel of Crawford Notch is Frankenstein Cliff. It’s home to numerous classics like "Dracula"—a full pitch of steep ice—"Standard Route"—many an ice climber's first experience on ice—and the list goes on: "Chia", "Pegasus", "Hobbit Couloir", and the super steep, and challenging "Dropline". And all of these routes are set along a railroad track, which makes access a breeze.
If you’re looking to dip your feet into ice climbing or you’ve got a group with varied talents, head up the tracks to Frankenstein.
What Makes It Great
This scattered ice climbing crag is made up of numerous small cliff bands, escarpments, cliffs, and gullyish formations that make it an ideal place to expand your skills as an ice climber.
Grades range from easy grade 3’s to hard 5’s, and there's even a variety of mixed climbs done before there were M ratings. Most of the routes have tree anchors at the top and a relatively short walk off the back to your packs and thermoses down below.
What makes this place so appealing to many is the fact that there is so much variety in the grades. There really is something for everyone. If you’re looking to step up your game on something over your head, the top roping, while tricky on a crowded weekend, is easily accessible via the walk off trails. Just be sure to see who’s on route below.
Frankenstein Cliff is a popular destination on mid-winter weekends, often filling the parking lot. But if you’re smart and reasonable about your goals, you shouldn’t have any problem finding some ice to climb within your grade. If you're unable to find anything, you can always head up the road to the top of the notch and hike into Mount Willard as another option.
Who is Going to Love It
This crag isn’t for alpine hard-men or women who are looking for solitude and long pitches in the mountains. There's plenty of scrappy, steep, and challenging routes for these types of climbers, but overall this crag is perhaps better suited for moderately skilled ice climbers and beginners. It's an ideal place to get into ice climbing—or get better at ice climbing—and it's the perfect place to enjoy a panoramic New England view.
The lower band of cliffs offer the most moderate routes, and the upper cliff band offers a longer approach, more solitude, and harder lines like "Bragg-Pheasant" and "Fang".
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Directions and parking are super simple: Head north up Route 302 into Crawford Notch Sate Park. You’ll see a parking lot on the left signed Arethusa Falls. Turn in and find a spot. Walk up (north) the tracks and start looking for the type of route you want to get on. There are no parking fees in the state park. There are no rules against bringing a dog, but common sense dictates that it’s not a good idea, as the approaches are steep and the threat of falling ice is always present, so better off to leave the pooch warm at home by the fire.